Artist Chris Mars was born in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, where he still lives and works today.
His pieces are held in numerous public collections
including The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The
Erie Art Museum, The Tweed, The Longview
Museum of Fine Arts and The Minnesota History
Center. Public exhibition venues have additionally
included The Mesa Museum of Contemporary Art,
The American Visionary Art Museum, Laguna
Museum of Art, The Steensland Art Museum,
Fredrick Weisman Art Museum and Art Center
South Florida, among others.
Upcoming exhibitions include Billy Shire Fine Arts
in Culver City, California from December 22, 2009
through January 2, 2010 and The Phipps Center
for the Arts in Hudson, Wisconson from Janury 22
through Febraury 21, 2010.
His debut monograph, TOLERANCE, was
published in late 2008 by Billy Shire Fine Art
Press. In addition to his painting, Mars endeavors
in film and animation and is an accomplished
musician with four solo albums available on on
Polygram and Bar None.
You can find Chris's latest art and film work as
well as a schedule of his coming exhibitions at his
website at http://www.chrismarspublishing.com/
TBS: When I think of someone who really puts their inner demons to creative use i
really think of you. The last time we spoke, "Tolerance", your book of beautiful and
sometimes morbidly dark paintings was fresh on the shelves - how have things changed
for you mentally and career wise for you since its release?
CM: I am glad you like the book, thank you! The release of Tolerance is still recent so
generally what motivates me now are many of the same themes that Tolerance houses.
I have enjoyed the positive feedback on the book and hope that the encapsulating of
my work - along with the written essays - helps to more clearly explain the message
TBS: How would YOU describe your book, "Tolerance" Chris?
CM: I would say that it is a very good marker for me as in a document of what I have
done thus far. It puts forth accurately my sentiments and motivations in a single place
and it is paced well. I think that the attention and skill that Sally and Bob Blewet put forth
in laying it out was well applied and successful. It's a real nice book and I am proud of it.
TBS: How did you come up with the title for your book and your pieces?
CM: We kicked around a few different titles while the book was in progress and we
landed on Tolerance. It struck a chord. We let it breathe for a while and it held up, so...
TBS: It has been said many times that your brother, who has schizophrenia, was a huge
inspiration for your book. Can you elaborate on that?
CM: I visit Joe regularly and continue to tell him how his life has and does inspire me.
He likes to hear this. He is a constant reminder of society's tendency to become fearful
of that which it does not readily understand; a propensity to dismiss or judge others -
whether these "others" are close by or far away or numerous. What Joe went through,
what so many like him go through, and in a broader sense what whole populations of
people go through, are an expression of this lack of understanding and prejudgment of
individuals and societies. Meanwhile it is heartening to see some progress toward
alleviating these attitudes. I think we are in a better place now than where we have
recently been as a society.
TBS: Does your brother do any form of art or have you ever suggested it to him and
what does he think of your work?
CM: I don't think I've ever noticed Joe participate in the arts. I know he appreciates
music, mostly classical, and he is very complimentary towards my work and knows he is
a part of it.
Interview by Kim Acrylic
TBS: Your first book was dedicated to Sally Mars, your wife. Was she a big influence on your book along with your brother?
CM: Yes, absolutely. I so much appreciate her continued encouragement and also that she tells me the straight truth about whether or not I
am nailing it down. Beyond these valuable traits concerning “what I do”, we share so many common interests and views. Sally is a wonderful
photographer and writer and has a great eye and mind for art. It is one of our favorite subjects to talk about. Sally is the love of my life and I
am thankful for this. To feel happy and loved and in a good place only serves to enhance creativity. Hopefully I give to her as much as she
gives to me.
TBS: It is stated in your book that your artwork was done with vegetable ink and recycled paper — what is your take on our environment and
CM: I think that what the majority of scientists tell us, and what we can observe for ourselves with the rapid melting of the polar caps and
mountain tops, there is cause for alarm. To the denialists I say, who the hell cares what is causing it, let’s come together and try to help stop
it if we can. Pollution sucks anyway you look at it, so what's the point in protecting big polluting money driven interests when you can latch
on to big “non-polluting” money driven interests, (If that’s your bag)...what’s the point of being lazy about it?
TBS: Any plans for a second volume? Or even a new medium?
CM: I’m still very captivated by oil painting and will continue to do films. Beyond these, I don’t see delving into a new medium—maybe silk
screen at some point. There are quite a few new paintings since "Tolerance" and also many unpublished earlier pieces—pastels and
scratchboards, mostly — that have not made it into a book. So I would like to proceed with a new one in the near future
TBS: These days do you have any new muses, anything different that really brings forth the creativity?
CM: I’m still pretty much in the middle of milking the muses I have, I don’t know if I could handle any more! If anything, perhaps a more
abstract direction that has to do more with dreams than reality.
TBS: Chris, you list confronting xenophobia as one of your personal interests — what can you say about that?
CM: Being the visual creatures that we are, there exists the potential to prejudge in a knee-jerk fashion what is even a little bit “out of place”.
Put this with the constant media barrage of dividing people over differences, while neglecting our commonalities, and the soup becomes
toxic. What is forgotten is how more alike we are than different. Though I think and hope, that on the whole people are beginning to see
through this, thereby slowly improving our lot.
TBS: What has been the highlights of some of your recent exhibits?
CM: For me the highlights are always the feedback that I get from the museum/gallery directors and workers and all the people who take the
time to attend the exhibitions. When working largely in solitude for long stretches of time, guided so much by my own compass, it is nice to
hear what people think of the work in person. I truly appreciate this.
TBS: Your work is very detailed; every little bone,vessel etc is done to the finest detail. How long does the average piece of work take you
and how many times do you have to do it over until you feel it's what you were aiming for?
CM: They vary from a few weeks to a few months depending on size and complexity. I usually do it in one pass without going over it again.
There are sometimes a few touch ups after the fact. if something bugs me or can be improved upon, though these are usually minor.
TBS: Do you have any specific rituals that you observe before or during a painting—any music that inspires you?
CM: Music is more of a distraction, I can tolerate a bit of jazz, but usually I listen to a book on tape, or silence. Prior to painting, I sometimes
have a “procrastination conversation” with Sally—it's a bit of a ritual. It's funny when she notices that I’m doing this, but what better way the
to procrastinate, or begin, than by talking with her?
TBS: What kind of art do you enjoy and is it anything like the things you have created?
CM: I do love to look at paintings, but really anything that people do well creatively, I enjoy—drawings, photography, good writing and take
in many movies.
TBS: Which artists do you personally think have gone under the radar and why do you think this so often happens in the world of art?
CM: I am a big fan of the painter Beksinski, I think his geographic location and some degree of personal isolation limited his “exposure”
during his lifetime. But I believe too that art lives longer than the person who created it, and think that people will continue to find Beksinski’s
work, and will continue to be moved by it.
TBS: What do you think makes for a successful art project?
CM: To really enjoy firsthand what you are creating and to love it thoroughly, no matter what the response of others.
TBS: In closing, what should we be looking for from Chris Mars in the future?
CM: More paintings. More films, I am about to start on another short. And another book before long.
You can find Chris's latest art and film work as well as a schedule of his coming exhibitions at his website at http://www.chrismarspublishing.com/